「さよならの忠」 (Sayonara no Chuu)
It was a little cliché, a tad too overdramatic, and had black and white battle scenes that dragged out for a bit too long, but this climactic finale still left a very good impression on the series as a whole. Surprisingly, the loss of Jubei’s innocent personality wasn’t emphasized in a remorseful way, and instead became the high point of her final battle with a Amakusa Shirou empowered Gisen. The entire time, I was bouncing back and forth between the idea the Shirou would actually be revived from Gisen’s “ritual” and the much more likely possibility that she would serve as a “final boss” proxy for him. The latter of course was preferred, as I would like to see a continuation of this series some time down the road. So while it came as no shocker that Gisen was the ultimate antagonist in this adaptation, it did come as a surprise for blue-eyed Jubei to reawaken to help defeat her. To drive that point home, it was nice to see that Jubei’s voice come out in the very last moments of the climactic battle, just before she valiantly sacrificed herself to defeat Gisen. The “deaths” of both Jubei and Gisen was something that I really wasn’t expecting, considering that this had been a fairly lighthearted high school comedy up until now. It does however make me appreciate it more, even though it was hinted that Jubei would make a return one day.
Admittedly, the whole “love conquers all” bit with everyone conveying their feelings to Jubei came off a little cheesy, but overall I’m quite happy with a finale that delivered non-stop fast-paced action to bring the story to a close. On the romance side, it’s probably safe to say that we got a harem ending too, which may not sit well with everyone but is conclusive nonetheless. There always tends to be some dissatisfaction over taking the easy way out with the girls continuing to fight over the male protagonist’s affection, so having some sort of closure is definitely better than none at all. Like I suspected last time, Yoshihiko and Nia make their return to show that the former had turned a new leaf as well. It may not have mattered to a lot of people whether Yoshihiko lived or died at this point, but as someone who wanted to see a happy ending for Nia, it did come as a very welcomed development. Despite having relatively minor roles in this finale, Hanzou, Matabee, and Kanetsugu’s inclusion in some semi-meaningful way was a nice touch, as it gave off a sense that this was the final battle in case we never do see a sequel. Hopefully we do though, since I loved the slapstick laughs in this series just as much as the samurai action that mixed well with them.
Back when everyone was quick to label this as another Queen’s Blade, I was also expecting something along those lines, except I wanted to cover it to show that there’s some substance to Hobby Japan‘s light novel series. As someone who watched both seasons of Queen’s Blade, I found it wasn’t nearly as bad as people who only fixated on the nudity made it out to be. Yes they do play up that side of the fan-service a fair bit, but it did have an ongoing plot that kept things moving forward in addition to character deaths along the way. Drawing from that understanding, I came into this series expecting the something similar and was happy to see the use of stylistic ink blotches to censor everything on the television broadcast so that more people may give the series a fair chance. As someone who covers anime, one of the more irksome things to hear is that someone was quick to rule out a series before even checking out if it’s something they’d enjoy, even when you’ve made it fairly easy for them with weekly posts. That feeling is compounded when a series turns out to be nothing like people were expecting like this one, yet is still perceived by an initial, shallow view that has spread across the Internet. Misconceptions are like a blogger’s nightmare.
Does that mean that this series is a masterpiece? No, of course not. Not many anime produced these days can even be considered that. It does mean that this series is much better than it’s been given credit for. The main beef I have is with people who continue to pass on unfounded impressions of a series, because they couldn’t be bothered to find out themselves what it actually entails. In this particular case, what really took me by surprise about Hyakka Ryouran was how quickly it became the “high school samurai comedy” that it was promised to be. Even I was a bit skeptical about that description when I came across it while writing the Fall 2010 Preview, so I was even more inclined to find out. After all, the early broadcast premiere of the first episode hardly made it seem like such. The second episode onwards on the other hand was a completely different story, and quickly made it one of my favorite romantic comedies of the season. The drastic setting change with a fictional Tokugawa shogunate future provided a uniqueness to the series as well, and I’m all for anime about samurai over the typical high school ones. Combining the two in a modern time period wasn’t something that had ever crossed my mind, but the results speak for themselves.
With great character designs, interesting personalities, lots of hilarious moments, occasional samurai action, and stylistic animation by Arms studio, the fan-service was just that — fan-service. It wasn’t the focus of the show and served no different purpose than it does in any other, making it a terribly reason for someone not to considering watching this series. Ultimately, for those who do enjoy romantic comedies but avoided checking this one out, it’s their loss as this was undoubtedly one of the biggest sleepers of the season. Those who have seen it will know exactly what I mean with the line, “My cottage!” Those in the know, will know.